Family ties and ancient grudges take center stage in Shazam: Fury Of The Gods
The fantastical sequel to the 2016 Shazam movie uses family to ground its fantasy-filled sequel.
Families, both those we’re related to by blood and those we form along the way, are integral in helping us make it through life and understanding the world. No matter how big or small, having those around us who love and protect us makes the hardships of life a little easier to endure.
Beginning with the 2016 film, the Shazam franchise has always grounded its extraordinary premise by focusing it on family. In the first film, Billy Baton (Asher Angel) was on a quest to find his birth mother and struggling to connect to his new foster family. At the climax of the first film, he was able to share in his newly acquired superpowers and cemented their bond. In Shazam: Fury Of The Gods he’s struggling to keep new family together as they all grow in different directions.
The sequel picks up a few years after the first film. Billy and his foster siblings are secretly the superheroes who galavant around their city saving lives, fighting crimes, and taking their responsibilities too lightly. After a disastrous attempt to prevent the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from collapsing, the group of heroes find themselves deemed public menaces.
They’ll soon find themselves going up against another powerful family when demi-goddesses known as the Daughters of Atlas (portrayed by Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler) appear in the real world and begin to wreak havoc. They’ll have to rely on allies, both old and new, to defeat this new death and save the world once again.
While Shazam: Fury Of The Gods isn’t a perfect film, it’s an enjoyable sequel to its 2016 predecessor. Asher Angel continues to charm and move me as the tough, but sensitive Billy Batson. On the flip side of that, Zachary Levi continues to amuse and thrill as Billy’s adult, superhero counterpart, Shazam. The casting is spot on, and it’s believable that pre-teen Asher Angel grows into the adult hero portrayed by Zachary Levi. The two obviously spent a lot of time studying each other’s quirks and mannerism, and it pays off when it comes to portraying the duality of the character of Billy Batson.
Angel and Levi aren’t the only duo performing a balancing act in the film. The actors portraying both the younger and older versions of Billy’s foster family do a great job as well. Jack Dylan Grazer and Adam Brody retain the swagger and perfect comedic timing of Freddy Freeman whether he’s in mortal and superhero form. Grazer gets much deserved screen time and a love interest in this one. He continues to be the second heart of this franchise after Asher Angel.
Ross Butler and Ian Chen do a great job of bringing Eugene to life and using his gaming-obsessed brain to highlight him as a master tactician in battles. He enjoys his powers, but also enjoys protecting the innocents of his city and his family.
Faithe Herman and Meagan Good embody the epitome of the annoying litter sister who you can’t help but love with their shared character of Darla. Her naivete and innocence come in handy and prevents characters from making rash decisions that will lead to more danger.
Jovan Armand and D.J. Cotrona take the character of Pedro on an interesting journey in this one; a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. This characters perfectly highlights that even with superpowers, you must embrace and accept all aspects of yourself, and share those aspects with those closest to you, to truly be happy.
Grace Caroline Currey pulls double duty in this one as both human and Shazam-form Mary. This made me happy because it confirmed a long-running theory I had that the Shazam forms are meant to represent the kids adult selves and aren’t just some random adult forms. The film also touches on Mary’s discontent that she has remained at home to help with superhero duties instead of going off to college like she intended in the first film. It’s a storyline that I wish had been explored more, but wasn’t possible due to all the characters and stories that needed to be serviced in this one.
In opposition to our family of superheroes, we have a family of ancient goddesses bent on avenging their dead father, the titan Atlas. Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler bring such an interesting dynamic to their roles. Like the Shazam family, each has their own motivations and goals. Mirren is focuses and authoritative; Liu is vengeful and rebellious; and Zegler is innocent and empathic. Zegler ends up getting more screen time then the rest as her character embarks on a nice romance with Grazer’s character, Freddy. It’s sweet, adorable, and the two have palpable chemistry on screen together.
The movie is also visually stunning. From the special effects utilized when the Shazam family transforms to the monsters from Greek myth running amok in the city, the designs are sleek, dream, and sometimes downright terrifying. They’re immersive and bright and draw you into the world.
One of my major complaints about the film is how Asher Angel and Zachary Levi are utilized. In the first film, Billy Batson is a lost son seeking out his long-lost mother only to discover that she purposely abandoned him. This called on a level of dramatic acting from Asher that was frankly astounding and admirable. When Levi is portraying the character, he’s a goof ball and completely unserious. While this worked in the first film, and was even well-balanced, the filmmakers assumed that he wanted to see more of Levi and so he gets the focus in this one.
While Levi might funny, it’s nice to see Asher taking on more dramatic and emotional elements of the character. There’s a subplot about Billy’s inability to refer to his foster mother as “mom” and the film doesn’t fully explore this even though the audience knows why he would struggle with this. Billy is also about to age out of the foster care system, which is a real concern and explains why he’s so determined to keep he and his foster siblings together. Again, the filmmakers don’t fully explore this and the film is weaker because of it.
Another complaint is the return of Djimon Hounsou’s return as The Wizard. Although we watched him die in the first film, as the trailer spoiled ahead of the film’s release, he returns in this one. Hounsou does well enough in his role, but it’s more of how the character’s resurrection is explained that feels rushed and nonsensical. It comes off as an insult to the viewers.
Overall, Shazam: Fury Of The Gods is an enjoyable sequel that uses the themes of family dynamics to ground its more fantastical elements. While it’s not perfect, it’s worth the watch.
Shazam: Fury of the Gods is now playing in theatres everywhere.